I will take an in depth look at the Houston Rockets at each position and how i think they will play in the western conference.
The Rockets surprised the NBA by having an outstanding season finishing 42-40. They did this all with their starting shooting guard being taller than their center.
They have a changed roster, a returning big man and outstanding depth. Let's dive in to the 2010-2011 Houston Rockets.
1st string: Aaron Brooks, the 09-10 season Most Improved Player. Brooks averaged 19.6 ppg,5.3 assists and 2.6 boards. He is one of the fastest players in the NBA, knows how to get to the basket and has an outstanding jump shot. He shot 43% from the field and 40% from three. His field goal percentage was lower than you would hope, but i expect it to go up as he won't have to create his shot as much with the return of Yao Ming. The Rockets will use an inside outside game, giving the ball to Yao wait for the double team and kick it out to Brooks or Houston's other three point shooters. Brooks needs to improve defensively to be an elite point guard in the NBA.
2nd string: Kyle Lowry, one of the most hard working players in the NBA. Kyle is a fantastic defender, has great hands and works his butt off every single game. He averaged 9.1 points, 4.5 assists and 3.6 boards. He only shot 40% from the field and 27% from three. Definitely not the kind of percentages you want. He was a bit over confident in his three point shooting. He fired some up that he probably shouldn't have. But i feel he will bounce back and be very efficient from the field.
3rd string: Ishmael Smith, the former Wake Forrest Demon Deacon is a good passer, he can create opportunities for his teammates and is almost as fast as Aaron Brooks. He is a poor three point shooter and shooting off the dribble. He also shot shaq-like from the free throw line last season with Wake Forrest. He was signed to a two year deal as an unsigned draft pick.
1st string: Kevin Martin, the scoring machine acquired by the Houston Rockets in the Tracy McGrady deal. He has an ability to hit tricky shots, he is a good athlete, a great three point shooter and a long wingspan. He averaged 21.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists and a steal per game. He shot 43% from the field and 31% from three. I wouldn't worry about the low field goal percentages as he was coming off an injury. He wasn't in the type of shape he will be in this season and will have his shot back in top form.
2nd string: Courtney Lee, the guy Houston got in return for Trevor Ariza. Courtney is a very good offensive player, unselfish and is an above average defender. He averaged 12.5 points, 3.50 boards and 1.7 assists. He shot 43% from the field and 34% from beyond the arc. He was forced to be a main scorer for the Nets last year and his field goal percentage suffered. Expect his efficiency to go up and for him to be a very good sixth man for the Rockets.
3rd string: Jermaine Taylor, the second year player out of UCF. He's very athletic, a pretty good shooter, he's a very good dunker, he can score, he can rebound and will develop into a good defender.
1st string: Shane Battier, arguably the best defender in the league. Shane shuts down the leagues best scorers. He is known as the leagues only Kobe stopper. I won't waste your time with stats except for he averages a block and a steal per game. He is one of the smartest players in the nba. He hits clutch shots. He is one of the best, if not the best role player in the NBA. He will take over the starting role from Trevor Ariza who was traded. Expect nothing less than excellent defense from Battier this season.
2nd string: Chase Budinger, Chase had a great season last year. He averaged 8.9 points, 3 boards and 1.2 assists per game. He shot 44% from the field and 37% from three. He has a nice shooting stroke, he's very athletic and is a great dunker. Expect great things from Chase as his minutes will go up because of Trevor Ariza's absence.
1st string: Luis Scola, he can score in the post, he can rebound, he hustles every minute of the game. He averaged 16.2 points and 8.6 rebounds. He shot 51% from the field. His number really improved after the Landry trade as he got more playing time. After the trade he averaged over 20 points and 9 rebounds per contest. Expect more great things from Luis this season.
2nd string: Chuck Hayes, He is one of the better post defenders despite his size. He played center last year but will go back to power forward this season. He is incredibly strong and is an outstanding rebounder and a hard worker.
3rd string: Jared Jeffries, he isn't a very good offensive player but is a solid defensive player. He is very good at taking charges and is an ok rebounder and shot blocker.
4th string: Patrick Patterson, he has no weaknesses but no real strengths. He's smart, has good potential and brings toughness that Houston needed badly.
1st string: Yao Ming, this season depends on Yao Ming. With him they are a top 4 seed in the west, without him they are a 7th, 8th or lottery team. Questions surround him, he will have limited minutes especially in the first part of the season. When healthy he is one of the best centers in the league,key words when healthy.
2nd string: Brad Miller, Brad is a very good offensive center. Last season he average 8.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. Last year was an off year for him but he is likely to rebound as he is returning to his old coach back in Sacramento, Rick Adleman. Brad thrived in Rick's offensive system and you can expect a good backup for Yao in Brad Miller.
3rd string: Jordan Hill, Jordan is a good rebounder and is not afraid of contact. He has loads of potential and will get a chance to show that with Houston this year.
I have the Rockets finishing somewhere in the 50 wins range and getting a top 4 seed. I have them losing to the Lakers in 7 in the western conference finals.
This season will depend on health. Yao will have to stay healthy for this to happen. Kevin Martin also has a history of injuries and will need to stay healthy. Basically injuries will decide the Rockets 2010-2011 season.
Stats from: espn.com and nba.com